Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber
Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Genre: Historical/paranormal YA
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: November 8, 2011
Series: Magic Most Foul #1
Source: Personal Shelf
Reviewed by: Tynga
I was obsessed.
It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen–everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable…utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.
There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.
I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting, and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked–bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.
Natalie Stewart has been very lonely her whole life. After her mother died in a traumatic accident, she lost her ability to speak. Hoping to help her, her father sent her away at an institute, without success. A lot awaits her when she comes back to her home though. A mysterious painting has been brought to New York, one of a young Lord who supposedly committed suicide. Natalie can’t help to be drawn to it, attracting trouble to herself by the same occasion.
I bought Darker Still because it was only 1,99$ on kindle (still is if you’re interested) and I think it was a good deal. Leanna penned an intriguing paranormal mystery, set in New York, 1800s, and I’m glad I read her highly original tale. Many elements make it original and I think it’s important I point a few. First, Natalie is a mute girl. It’s very rare to have main characters with disabilities in a novel and I loved that it didn’t impair her. She was strong and confident despite what most thought of her, thus would make a great model for teens in this situation. Miss Hieber also chose to narrate the story in the form of a diary, letting her main character pouring her soul onto the pages, an highlight of this story. And last, the concept was simply unique. Having a young Lord trapped in a painting isn’t something I read of before, and his fate in the hands of Natalie made it that much more engrossing.
Not action-packed, the novel was sustained by its characters. Natalie was very likeable, but the secondary characters strongly enriched this magical tale. Lord Dendury was particularly magnetic in both his forms. You see, his spirit is looked in the painting, but his body is walking the streets, causing havoc. Mrs. Northe was actually my favorite. She is kind and knowledgeable, her motherly figure really hit home with me somehow and her relationship with Natalie was very endearing.
Even though the plot progressed somewhat slowly Leanna managed to keep the reader engaged the whole time and I truly enjoyed following the heroes putting together the clues to free Lord Denbury. The only mistake Hieber did, I think, was to wrap-up the tale so tightly. Even though I liked the novel, there’s no loose ends or cliff-hanger at the end, and I don’t feel the urge to get my hands on the second book.
With its gothic atmosphere, Darker Still will definitely please fans of mystery and paranormal wrapped in a pretty package.